The 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Seattle today to take on the 7-1 Seahawks, who are off to the franchise’s best start in team history. The Bucs, on the other hand, are just trying to salvage some level of respectability in what has been a nightmarish season.
There will be no running back Doug Martin, who continues to nurse a torn labrum. There will be no Dashon Goldson either. The All-Pro safety is still battling a knee injury and did not make the trip to Seattle.
There’s still plenty to watch though, even with no real ramifications on the line other than the job of Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.
Here are some key match-ups:
Richard Sherman vs. Vincent Jackson
Only one time in the last eight games has a team’s No. 1 receiver scored a touchdown against lockdown cornerback Richard Sherman, which is a problem considering 43 percent of Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon’s completions have gone to Jackson.
Add in the fact that No. 2 receiver Mike Williams went on IR this week, and the significant drop-off between he and replacement Tiquan Underwood, and it could be a long day for the Bucs offense.
“It’s going to be a challenge, for sure. This defense, as a whole, is playing really well, at a high level this year. They play well as a unit, and they do have some guys, some good size, that fly around back there in the secondary. We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Jackson told reporters earlier this week.
Golden Tate vs. Darrelle Revis and the Bucs secondary
The Seahawks are in a similar predicament as the Bucs when it comes to the passing game. They’re without star receivers Sidney Rice, who suffered a torn ACL against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night, and Percy Harvin, who is coming off hip surgery.
That leaves Golden Tate to carry the torch. Tate caught two touchdowns last week against the Rams, including the 80-yard game winner that yielded a $7,875 fine.
It’s no given that Revis will even be on him when the Bucs play man-coverage, as he wasn’t on Harry Douglas in the Bucs 31-23 loss to the Falcons, but he’ll handle a large portion of responsibilities in the secondary, given Goldson’s absence and a hip injury that has slowed strong safety Mark Barron.
Revis acknowledged earlier this week that he still isn’t 100-percent, which is why the team has played more zone coverage and off-man coverage.
“I’m getting back to myself. The last game I pressed [Panthers wide receiver] Steve Smith every chance I got, so I’m getting there. It’s a process. I just have to keep on strengthening my leg and getting stronger,” said Revis, who acknowledges he still has a little ways to go before he can be put on an island again.
“It’s the plays that if a guy is running you off four or five times, you need those reps, you need that build up. I wasn’t getting that, I wasn’t feeling comfortable even running from press coverage to go. It’s just something that’s going to take some time.”
Bucs offensive line versus Seattle’s defensive line
Tampa Bay continues to shuffle its offensive line in an effort to bolster the run game in Martin’s absence and protect rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who was sacked three times last week.
Converted offensive tackle Jamon Meredith will get the start at left guard this week, with Jeremy Zuttah, who lined up at left guard last week, back at center. It’s the fifth different starting lineup the Bucs offensive line has shown this season.
“[He’s] a bigger guy. He’s going to be physical. This is going to be a big man’s game Sunday [against Seattle],” said Schiano, referring to interior defensive linemen Tony McDaniel, who is 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, and Brandon Mebane, who is 6-foot-1, 311. “[I think Meredith] gives us a better physical matchup.”
Marshawn Lynch vs. Lavonte David
It will take an entire defense to stop the league’s fourth-ranked rusher in Marshawn Lynch, who has 601 yards already this season, but given the high level weakside linebacker Lavonte David is playing at, this could be a fun one.
David has 47 solo tackles already this season and 5.0 sacks, with 22 tackles in the last two games. He’s also third in the league among defensive players with 11 tackles for a loss, more than any other linebacker.
Bucs defensive line vs. Russell Wilson
I addressed this issue quite a bit during my game preview Friday, which you can listen to here. The Bucs defense lost contain of Cam Newton last week, allowing him to escape pressure and make plays outside the pocket.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has compiled 339 rushing yards already this season, possesses the same elusive qualities and is equally dangerous on the move, except I’d say he’s a little bit better throwing on the move.
Considering the weak showing Seattle’s offensive line had against the Rams, surrendering seven sacks, it’s imperative the Bucs defensive line gets to the quarterback and keeps him from scrambling outside the pocket.